Waukesha mayor speaks at community vigil held for victims
Waukesha mayor addresses the community’s grief during vigil held for victims.
Associated Press, USA TODAY
WAUKESHA, Wis. – The suspect accused of plowing his SUV through a barricade at a Christmas parade – killing five people and injuring at least 48 – was expected to be formally charged at a court hearing Tuesday as questions mounted over his release on bail two days earlier.
Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, was fleeing a domestic disturbance with a report of a knife when he rammed into the parade Sunday night in an incident that has devastated the suburban Milwaukee town of Waukesha. He will be charged with five counts of intentional homicide, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Monday.
Brooks was free on $1,000 bail posted Friday for another pending case that included an allegation he deliberately hit a woman with his car in early November after a fight. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office said it has launched an internal review of its “inappropriately low” bail recommendation in that case.
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As investigators searched for answers in the deadly incident, hundreds sought community solace Monday night in a candlelight vigil and interfaith prayer service.
“Last night, was a tragedy no community should ever have to experience,” Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said. “Last night, our children were terrified when they should’ve been laughing. Last night, many of our friends were gravely injured when they should’ve been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and neighbors.”
Here’s what we know:
A home security video appears to show Brooks’ arrest after he approached a resident asking for help, NBC News reported.
Brooks knocked on the resident’s door Sunday about 20 minutes after the crash and told the resident he was homeless and waiting for an Uber.
The resident told NBC News he had been hunting and was unaware of what had just happened at the parade. He let Brooks inside, gave him a jacket and sandwich and let him use his phone before seeing police cars drive by, NBC reported.
The man asked Brooks to leave and as he exited the house, police officers arrived and told him to put his hands up, the resident told reporters. Part of that interaction was captured on the security video.
Thompson said Brooks is in custody and faces at least five counts of intentional homicide with the possibility of additional charges. The Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office said it will file charges against Brooks on Tuesday and additional charges are expected at a later date.
Brooks was expected to appear in Waukesha County Court at 4 p.m. local time.
Thompson provided few details of the domestic disturbance that happened before Brooks drove through the parade but said there had been a report of a knife and police did not respond to that scene before they went to the parade.
Thompson said Brooks was acting alone and there was no indication of terrorism or that Brooks knew anyone in the parade.
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Brooks was freed on $1,000 bail just two days before the deadly event, which has drawn scrutiny and renewed calls for giving judges more power to set higher bails.
Brooks was arrested and charged earlier this month after a woman told police he intentionally ran her “over with his vehicle” in the parking lot of a gas station after he followed her there following a fight, according to a criminal complaint.
The $1,000 bail recommended by prosecutors and accepted by the court commissioner in the case was called “inappropriately low” by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office in a Monday statement.
The bail also was not consistent with the office’s approach to cases “involving violent crime, nor was it consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant prior to setting of bail,” the statement read.
Brooks has been charged with crimes 10 times since 1999, including three times in less than two years with recklessly endangering the safety of others. Most recently, Brooks was charged in a domestic abuse incident Nov. 5 for which he was also charged with resisting or obstructing an officer.
Police on Monday released the names of those killed in the crash.
Three of the victims were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a local choreographed dance and pom-pom parade group: Virginia Sorenson, 79; LeAnna Owen, 71; and Tamara Durand, 52. Wilhelm Hospel, 81, who helped the group, also died.
Victim Jane Kulich, 52, worked at Citizens Bank, which said in a statement that “one of our team members who was walking with the parade float was struck and passed away as a result of her injuries.”
In a post shared on Facebook, the Grannies said: “Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness.
“While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts.”
The cold and windy candlelight vigil Monday night included clergy reciting prayers for those mourning while volunteers handed out candles and hot chocolate.
“We walk that street every day, it’s home, and it just hits really close to home,” said Kim Mischalouski, a Waukesha resident for 30 years. “Tonight was to help me kind of feel better. It’s not there yet, but it’s coming and I was hoping there was going to be something like this.”
Contributing: The Associated Press